2 March 2022

ACTCOSS calls on Housing ACT to put 'heartless' relocation process on hold

| Ian Bushnell
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Dr Emma Campbell

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell: to ask someone in their 60s, 70s or 80s to leave a home after they have lived in it for decades is unconscionable. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT’s peak welfare group has blasted Housing ACT’s new tenant relocation push as heartless. They have called on the government to pause the process and genuinely engage with the more than 300 households that received letters last week saying they would have to move from their current homes.

The ACT Council of Social Services said the letters advising tenants they would have to move because their homes had been earmarked for sale or redevelopment as part of the public housing renewal program came out of the blue for many of them.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said community groups had been inundated with calls from distressed tenants, many of whom had not heard from Housing ACT for years.

She said a mass mailout with a fact sheet and a list of community organisations’ telephone numbers was not appropriate for dealing with vulnerable people.

“I know of one person in their 80s who has received this letter and they were certainly not aware that their house was under this scheme,” Dr Campbell said.

“There have not been appropriate supportive processes for that individual, and I know it’s been the case for a number of other tenants as well.”

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Dr Campbell said the organisations listed in the fact sheet had not received any more resources to deal with an influx of calls from concerned tenants.

“We need to meet with Housing ACT and with the Minister,” she said.

“They need to put a hold on these notices and reassure the tenants that they will be able to access good quality advocacy, that the individual circumstances of tenants will be heard and considered and responded to if it’s not appropriate to ask those individuals to move.

“I don’t think someone in their 80s with dementia should be forced out of their home.”

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Dr Campbell said ACTCOSS supported in principle the efficient management of and reinvestment in housing stock but had deep concerns about how the renewal program was being implemented.

“We don’t understand the basis on which Housing ACT has selected some of these houses,” she said.

“There’s no transparency around how decisions have been made as to which tenants have received letters, apart from noting that some of those properties are on high-value land, or the tenants themselves have invested large amounts of their own money in the property to get them up to scratch.”

She said to ask someone in their 60s, 70s or 80s to leave a home with no clear reason after they have lived in it for decades is unconscionable.

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Dr Campbell noted there may be some people in larger houses who would be willing to downsize, but more than 300 people were notified by post without any consideration of their individual circumstances, “whether or not they are well enough to move, whether or not they have invested large amounts of money in the property with the permission of the ACT Government, or whether or not they are carers for their grandchildren and children, whether or not they are living near support networks”.

“None of these things have been taken into account when these letters were sent out,” she said.

Rebecca Vassarotti.

Housing Services Minister Rebecca Vassarotti has promised a tailored response : Photo: Region Media

Housing Services Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said she believed the letters had been hand-delivered so tenants had an opportunity to discuss the matter.

Ms Vassarotti insisted that Housing ACT had been in touch with tenants before the letters were sent and that there would be a tailored response.

“We’ve been looking to contacting tenants all the way and also looking at the supports that are needed and also ensuring that community organisations are involved every step of the way,” she said.

However, she acknowledged that some tenants may have slipped through the cracks.

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Ms Vassarotti said the community expected that the government would manage its housing stock properly and was renewing it.

“We’re actually providing homes to our tenants that are modern, accessible and cheaper to run,” she said.

“I would hope all community partners would welcome us really working to see how we can provide more public housing properties, something advocates call for the government to do all the time, and this is part of how we manage this stock.”

Ms Vassarotti said it would be difficult for some tenants, but Housing ACT staff would be working sensitively with tenants to match them to properties that meet their needs.

The letter says a dedicated Tenant Relocation Officer will provide tenants with personalised, one-on-one support, but Dr Campbell said tenants needed independent advice.

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ACT public housing stock is limited so it should be prioritised and only go to the most needy and disadvantaged in the community. If you are one person living in a 3 bedroom public housing dwelling, of course you should be moved out to a smaller place so that a family of say 4 or 5 people (2 adults and 3 children) can live there.

One is forced – as usual to ask why so many public employees have no interest at all of what impact and costs they can end up imposing on people struggling to pay their bills.

It would not cost the territory government a lot of money ro get this complexity right, and minimise this kind of thoughtless crap. The Chief Minister needs to take a look at this issue and make the necessary changes.

Geez I wasn’t lucky enough to qualify for a govie so had to rent privately. I never got to make a home because I was at the whim of the owner and moved many times because it was being sold etc.

These people are ungrateful to those of us who pay the tax to subsidise their homes. It’s time to go so others who need it can have a go. Their not being made homeless just being transferred to more subsidised accommodation paid by the tax payer. Be thankful you don’t have to rent privately in the current market.

These people are just selfish. Look after number one and to hell with everyone else.

Brett Lynden Everingham3:03 pm 03 Mar 22

Same Trend Copy Cat effects Follow like SHEEP no respect for History Architecture 200years old Walter Burleigh Griffin American Husband and Wife team who’m originally planned and designed Canberra many years ago Burleigh married the Griffin girl that’s why the American name. It’s all about MONEY they never cared since being Made Authorities such as Manageress Ministers Public Trustee Servants Court Judges Theyre safe and sound in their Employees Compulsory Superannuation fund and Their own weekly Over exaggerated incomes Pushing Pens in an Air conditioned Office
P.S when their so called available Sick Leave etc and all they can do is Greedy little men and women looking for personal wealth increase at the cost of human beings Welfare There’ys Hacking into Personal Files and NOTHING else as soon as Example Freedom of Information act request they start with Most Vulnerable to the most wealthiest And with ONE foul stroke of the poison pen Sign peoples lives away like as if THEY Literally OWN Them All vested interests ALL READY to move out if THEIR offices and into the Brand New Building’s they’ve Evicted others out of as soon as Therye built, and they’ve because they work in the Housing OFFICE gave already got onside and inside information about New development and the money to pay for Therye New accommodation at the expense of OTHER Hard working reliable tennants payed in advance Well kept premises Clean Crime And Drugs FREE BUT means nothing except they’ll inspect yearly then What? Exactly the same thing as I’m Sydney They didn’t want the rent or the Tennant Woman 85 year old + ? They wanted the building and the land 100s Years old SO!? Out she went and demolished over night Absolutely Pathetic

Great points well made Brett.

ChrisinTurner1:33 pm 03 Mar 22

My personal observation, as a neighbour, is that the ACT government does not enforce tenancy agreements and also reduces maintenance to the point that the property becomes “dilapidated” and can be demolished and sold to a developer. Developers do not have to provide any public housing in their replacement dwellings.

Certainly agree on the first point Chris – and no doubt that when decisions are made to sell properties, any attempts at maintenance go out the door.

I suggest there are two issues in play in that regard – 1) Housing ACT doing a poor job at general maintenance/upkeep of property and 2) Housing ACT interpreting decisions of government to sell as a chance to ‘turn off the taps’ completely on doing any maintenance at all – I think in the past decade anyway, the decision to sell/demolish is made well in advance of properties reaching the point of being dilapidated – but accept it may operate in some areas in the reverse direction in some areas too.

Certainly the very large movements (Northbourne Flats, Flats near Canberra Centre, Red Hill etc), were decisions made well in advance of the actual sale.

Mike of Canberra,
Couldn’t have put it better myself . I’ve had multiple heart attacks inflicted by ferals in my public ‘housing’ after being stabbed violently by someone who had already committed a murder/manslaughter in the complex and many other assaults but in true Canberra style gets no punishment not even immediately arrested as would be the case elsewhere ,and it’s not considered a breach of tenancy to stab neighbours for fun. Also on a public housing lease it says at the top “YOU HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS AS A PRIVATE TENANT”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Legal aid will deal will private tenants only and it is impossible to enforce your rights within the system. It has been constructed by the government to ignore the rights of normal people , otherwise if matters were addressed, like they were in other states when the ice pandemic really took hold, then they would have to manage PH by the rule of law rather than their socialist ideology allowing ferals to control our lives. We have no way to access human rights in ACT no tenant rights and no legal rights lawyers don’t care , legal aid is really only a criminal support service.
I’m surprised they have not merged legal aid and Housing ACT since they both mollycoddle criminals.

I’m really sorry for your experience. However it’s not right to tar everyone with the same brush.

Thanx Jess please read my reply to JS9. Believe me I know what it’s to be tarred with the same brush.

Mike of Canberra3:24 pm 03 Mar 22

Unfortunately Jess, anyone with any real experience with public housing can cite all too many such examples.

Thanx Mike the whole story is thoroughly disgusting and could only happen here

Mike of Canberra10:52 am 03 Mar 22

I note Emma Campbell’s touching concern for those tenants affected by Housing ACT’s forced relocation program, something forced in part by the totally neglected and rundown nature of so many public housing properties. How have the properties come to be in this condition? The reasons include unskilled, neglectful and, yes, lazy tenants, all left to rot in their neglected houses by Housing ACT, an organisation that has long proclaimed its commitment to social justice, tenants’ rights, and the right of every person to have a roof over their heads. No such compassion, however, when it comes to neighbouring private residents, you know, the ones who pay the bills and seek to look after the properties into which they have invested so much time, effort, emotion, and money, only to have their lives ruined by neighbouring, feral public housing tenants. When has Housing ACT ever administered and enforced its own tenancy agreements, you know those things that include provisions that, if adhered to, would ensure that no public housing property or tenant was ever a problem for their neighbours? When was the last time Housing ACT ever took seriously its responsibilities for maintaining essential property infrastructure such as water and sewerage? And, for that matter, why is it that so many “ferals” are migrating into the ACT from across the border? The reason is Housing ACT’s lacklustre management has inflicted neglect and suffering on the tenants it proclaims so loudly to value while its endless virtue signalling attracts the ferals. And when Housing ACT’s failures become so manifest and widespread that many private residents are noticing, they finally decide the way to resolve these problems is to sweep them under the carpet through the so-called Urban Renewal Program, thus compounding the problem. Why so silent before this Ms Campbell?

“The reason is Housing ACT’s lacklustre management has inflicted neglect and suffering on the tenants it proclaims so loudly to value while its endless virtue signalling attracts the ferals.”

Care to provide some objective, evidence based data to support this supposition? (primarily the 2nd part).

Calling other people ‘ferals’ is a disgraceful enough slur as it is…. but I’d love to see where you can point to something that is not pure anecdotal, and likely inherently hugely subjective, to support your claim that somehow Housing ACT’s “Endless virtue signalling” (whatever that means in the context of a government agency) is attracting ‘the ferals’….

It appears you are totally clueless JS9, Though sure it’s not good to label all tenants as ‘feral’ as not all are , probably about 20% are ,and they can destroy the lives of neighbours and be rewarded by the ‘government’ for doing so. Andrew Barr has shown some concern about NSW people accessing ACT housing because the NSW government doesn’t provide much housing in SE NSW and the wait time is far longer than in Canberra. What Mr Barr will never understand is the reasons why they come. Do you have any understanding of why Canberras’ clearance rate of reported crime is half the NSW rate and the recidivism rate is close to double? There are many public servants at housing ACT who are very clearly tired of the pro- criminal system and having to deal with the victised tenants who don’t have any rights. JS9, you really have to have lived in PH and be a victim of crime before you can actually understand the meaning of the word ‘feral’.

Mike of Canberra6:34 pm 03 Mar 22

JS, statistical evidence to support my assertions? Where pray do you suggest such evidence would come from here in secrecy city, you know, the place where Secrecy/Housing ACT won’t even say where its housing is located? But there’s numerous examples that certainly indicate a pattern:
• Ferals? Where friends of mine live, a young boy’s scalp was ripped off by a dangerous dog off at a public housing property housing drug dealers selling drugs to his parents.
• Those same dealers were suspects in a heroin dealer’s death, with this leading to a street lockdown during a police raid, during which both dealers were subdued on the nature strip at the point of a semi-automatic weapon and all street residents were unable to access their homes for several hours.
• On another occasion, private residents discovered a young man with his face covered in blood from being beaten up by these drug dealers for failure to pay his “account”.
• Elsewhere, another tenant allowed their backyard to grow into a virtual “field of wheat-style fire hazard and rat haven, such was the complete lack of maintenance of their property.
• This same tenant was given to setting fires on boundary fences during total fire bans, necessitating fire brigade attendance.
• Another public housing tenant we know of aided the escape of a man being pursued by police over a local service station robbery.
• A professional woman we know who lives with her wife in an outlying area has had her life made miserable by public housing “ferals” from a neighbouring property.
• As to virtue signalling, try reading Housing ACT’s annual report (you probably wrote it). Then there’s the many puff pieces used by Housing Minister Berry to deflect attention from her own substandard performance.

Open BOTH eyes JS.

Mike – your the one that claimed that somehow Housing ACT’s “virtue signalling” ) is attracting people to come to Canberra solely to access Public housing.

If that is the case, surely you can give more then ‘just the vibe’ to prove your point. But alas, you’ve not even been able to provide a single anecdotal piece of evidence to support that suggestion – just unrelated ones about behaviour of individuals in public housing.

Seems very unlikely to be happening to any significant level given there is a residency period that must be demonstrated before even being considered, and then a waiting list to deal with after that. Its not like the ACT private rental market is easy to get into if you are truly in need of public housing….

I never said anywhere that there wasn’t significant issues with a proportion of people in public housing. But to tar the lot as ferals is unkind and unwarranted – like any cross-section of the community, there are those people that do the wrong thing – in this case, some very undesirable behaviour. But that doesn’t extend to the whole group either.

“As to virtue signalling, try reading Housing ACT’s annual report (you probably wrote it).”

I don’t even work for Government – dribble like this doesn’t validate your arguments, it just makes you look foolish and full of hot air.

At least Mickos you have recognised the point I was making is that it is not good to label all tenants as ferals. They are still people at the end of the day – and showing some basic respect to people as a collective (noting individuals within a group will do bad things) is not unreasonable.

That doesn’t excuse the dreadful behaviour by some. But that wasn’t the point I was getting at.

All I asked for was some evidence to actually support the claim that somehow Housing ACT’s policies were actively encouraging people seeking public housing to move to Canberra. At least you attempted to respond to that question, unlike Mike. But I still see nothing really to claim that somehow Housing ACT’s ‘virtue signalling’ (Again what does that mean in this context) is actively encouraging people to move here. There may be some drift around people in the surrounding area coming to Canberra due to supply issues – but that would seem to be unrelated to whatever ‘virtue signalling’ Mike is claiming is going on.

And let me finish by saying you have no idea of my background or upbringing. I do not need to be lectured about feral behaviour or the like – I saw plenty of it growing up where I did, including living in close proximity to significant PH in places with significant social issues.

But I do also know that its a much more nuanced, complex story for many of those people then some want to present, and that it is unhelpful and unnecessary to tar the whole lot as ‘ferals’ as well.

Mike of Canberra12:38 pm 04 Mar 22

“A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.

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